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A sleeper that kept its viewers awake

August 25, 2003|Robert W. Welkos

After getting a peek at "Jeepers Creepers 2," which opens in the U.S. on Friday, a BBC reviewer called it "bloody, brutal and unpleasant." Just the kind of reviews that should attract teens and fans of the horror genre, if they bother reading reviews.

Horror movies have always been popular, and what makes Hollywood so fond of them is that they don't require strong scripts, big stars or much in the way of pricey special effects to succeed.

They succeed or fail on their capacity to send chills up one's spine. That certainly was the case in September 2001, when United Artists released "Jeepers Creepers" and watched it become a sleeper hit.

The film, written and directed by Victor Salva, grossed $37.5 million in North America and was followed by other retro-style horror pictures such as "Wrong Turn" and last week's chart-topping "Freddy vs. Jason."

In its review, The Times wrote that the original "Jeepers Creepers" had "the scariest opening sequence of any horror picture in recent memory."

For "Jeepers Creepers 2," Salva has a young boy doing his chores in a sunny cornfield in the late afternoon when he sees something move out of the corner of his eye. Moments later, the boy is snatched screaming into the sky as his father watches helplessly.

From there, the movie shifts to a group of varsity basketball players, cheerleaders and coaches who become stranded on a highway. After the adults are killed one by one, the students are left to defend themselves against the supernatural, carnivorous Creeper.

"The first film got a little truncated with time and Victor had to change the ending a little bit and ran out of money," said executive producer Bobby Rock at American Zeotrope, the production company run by Francis Ford Coppola, which produced the picture.

"This time, he had a little more money and knew how to pace it better."

The film stars Jonathan Breck as the Creeper and Ray Wise as the boy snatched into the sky.

Rock said today's horror movies have to compete with real-life stories that are equally scary -- like SARS or the West Nile Virus or the sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C., area. "We are in such a strange environment right now," he said.

-- Robert W. Welkos

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